This blog post was written by senior Undergraduate Assistant Kayla Thompson.
With graduation fast approaching, I cannot help but reflect on my last four years at Baylor. I am continuously amazed at the transience of college life, remembering my first day on Baylor’s campus, after the parents had gone home, tears streaming down my face. I felt so alone. Growing up in a military family, I learned quickly that my family was my anchor. If I had them in my life, then the anxiety and overwhelming nature of human existence couldn’t pull me down. I was in flux, free-falling, adjusting to the fact that my family was starting a new chapter without me. One small comfort was the consistency and predictability of time. It’s such a finite resource, and I had the responsibility to choose how I would spend mine. I was a woman on a mission to fill my days with school and work, so my feelings of restlessness would dissipate. Strong-willed as I am, my commitment to excel in my classes while working part-time changed the trajectory of my future, and for that, I am forever grateful.
The Act of Proving: The Past
Wake up, time to get ready
Must put on my mask to face the day
There are so many things I cannot be, so what does that leave for me?
Cannot be loud, cannot be late, cannot be lazy
Like my mother says, “Things are more VIVID in COLOR.”
To combat these preconceived notions, I became silent
Who can condemn me if I stifle my voice?
Who can judge me if I only say what people want to hear?
I remain in the confined space I have been unduly put
Who can set me FREE?
Sitting in my seat, I retreat further into myself
Watching the clock shed seconds like grains of sand
Maybe I will make it out alive
I struggle to find my best self, fearing rejection from others
How can I ESCAPE their watchful eyes?
With each passing day, I become more tired
I know Judgment Day is coming, and I am not ready
When I step into a classroom, I become a token of black identity
So many doubts race through my mind, “Have I put this pressure on myself?”
A place for learning has put me on trial, and I plead NOT GUILTY
I am waking up from this endless dream that envelops me
Taking back my sanity and connecting the pieces to build my own identity
No longer will I hide behind a façade, only allowing parts of myself to shine through
As I look to the heavens, I know God is working in me, and I will not cave to fear
I pray for the day that when asked, “What do you have to prove?” … NOTHING
No Longer Proving…Simply Being: The Present/Future
Shedding my past feelings of inadequacies, my poem, The Act of Proving, was my outlet for expressing the many thoughts running through my head. The thoughts that leave you immobilized in fear that you may make an unrecoverable mistake. Since freshman year, I have fought to regain ownership of my identity, existing to please myself separate from the real or imagined expectations of others. Throwing off my mask as an imposter, I have embraced a full status of personhood while creating my own sense of belonging. No longer asking to be recognized, I carved out a safe space for myself that has allowed me to be.
To quote the eloquent words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when talking about the dangers of a single story, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity…When we reject the single story, we regain a kind of paradise” (TED Global 2009). Adichie’s words resonate with me, acting as a call to action for how I want to live my life — never being afraid to share my story. My best stories come when I walk in fear, refusing to over-analyze every potential outcome.
I recognize that I did not get to where I am today without the loving support of my family, who act as my sounding board when I am indecisive and my number one supporter when I am overly critical of myself. They have been a true constant in my life, offering me a place to rest from the outside world. I would also like to thank the Poage staff who have been instrumental in helping me find my voice, offering me a platform to write about my experiences and highlight prominent figures and events in the Black community. I am incredibly grateful for these opportunities to grow and will cherish my time working at Poage Library. It was my hope that I would leave college better than I came in – mission accomplished.
Although my time at Baylor is coming to a close, I’m looking forward to what’s next. I am ready for a return to normalcy amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving to a completely online schedule has definitely been a unique experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Not only have I been able to spend more time with the family, but also I have been able to improve my time-management skills while stretching the limits of responsibility and working on being more flexible with the little things. Every day I’m growing and learning something new, committed to being a life-long learner. With law school on the horizon, I am excited to see what this next season will hold after my decision to take a gap year; I want to re-discover my identity separate from being a student. Ultimately, I regret nothing, even my less-than-stellar moments, because it is in my failures that true life lessons can be gleaned. Every day I am making a commitment to simply be, accepting that in the end, validation from others is elusive and fleeting; only I can set a standard of excellence, realizing my best is good enough.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The danger of a single story.” TED Global, 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/transcript?language=en. Accessed 16 April 2021.